CPS makes populace aware of legionnaire’s disease



GREAT BAY, Sint Maarten (DCOMM) – The Collective Prevention Service (CPS) a department within the Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labour (Ministry VSA), has registered one case of legionnaires.

Legionnaire’s disease is a serious type of pneumonia (lung infection) caused by legionella bacteria.  People can get sick when they breathe in small droplets of water or accidently swallow water containing legionella into the lungs.

Legionella bacteria can also cause less serious illness. Illness usually develops three to six days after infection but may take longer.

The illness usually starts with a fever, chills, headache, and muscle pain. This is followed by a dry cough and breathing difficulties that may progress to severe pneumonia. About 30% of those infected will also have diarrhea or vomiting and about 50% become confused or delirious.

Legionella bacteria are found naturally in freshwater environments. The bacteria can become a health concern when they grow and spread in human-made building water systems like showerheads and sink faucets; Cooling towers (structures that contain water and a fan as part of centralized air-cooling systems for buildings or industrial processes); Hot tubs; Decorative fountains and water features; Hot water tanks and heaters; and large, complex plumbing systems.

Home and car air-conditioning units do not use water to cool the air, so they are not a risk for legionella growth.

In general, people do not spread legionnaires’ disease to other people. Most healthy people exposed to legionella do not get sick. People at increased risk of getting sick are people 50 years or older; Current or former smokers; People with a chronic lung disease (like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or emphysema); People with weak immune systems or who take drugs that weaken the immune system (like after a transplant operation or chemotherapy); People with cancer; and people with underlying illnesses such as diabetes, kidney failure, or liver failure.

The key to preventing legionnaires’ disease is to reduce the risk of legionella growth and spread. Building owners and managers should have a risk analysis carried out and a legionnaires’ control plan in place that would facilitate the regular maintaining of building water systems and implementing controls for legionella.

If you require additional information about legionnaires’, you can contact CPS by calling 914.